The Last Page

Miles From Home

By Daniel Steckenberg ’06

This is a story about how sometimes the things that make us different actually bring us closer together. Lisa Flores ’82 arrived at Vassar in the fall of 1978 after traveling 10,000 miles from her home in Guam.

All of her siblings had gone to school on the East Coast, and her sister was living in Connecticut, providing a safety net just far enough away to be unlike parental supervision. By all accounts, Lisa adjusted to Vassar just fine. She currently lives in New York City and remains active in AAVC. “I never regretted my decision,” she says. “Vassar was always a second home to me, and I always thought of my close college friends as extended family.”

Lisa’s fond memories influenced her niece, Maria Quinata (pictured), to apply for entry into the class of 2009. She was accepted, so Maria will fly the 10,000 miles from Guam to Vassar this fall, just like her “Auntie Lisa” did 27 years ago. And just like her aunt, Maria will do so with the knowledge that, though she is in a completely unfamiliar place, she has family close by (but not too close).

Despite Vassar’s distance from her home, Maria says her decision was an easy one. Her Aunt Lisa’s stories made Vassar Maria’s “dream school ever since [she] was a little girl.” When she visited the campus, her expectations were “exceeded.” According to Maria, “everything about Vassar seemed to fit me so perfectly.” She was impressed by the “beautiful” library (“definitely one of the deciding factors in my decision to attend Vassar,” she says), Vassar’s proximity to New York City, and the tour guide’s assurance that at Vassar there were “personal relationships between professors and their students.”

World globe showing Europe, Asia and Australia
World globe showing Europe, Asia and Australia
Though Maria is surely the only student coming from Guam, extraordinariness is fairly typical among the class of 2009. Maria will be joining 42 other students from outside the United States, representing 26 foreign countries. Her classmates will speak Bengali and Bulgarian, Hebrew and Hindi, Mandarin, Siswati, and Urdu (among others). There is a two-time contestant in the National Spelling Bee, two licensed pilots, and the winner of five consecutive blue ribbons for baking the best biscuits at the New Mexico state fair.

Maria and her classmates prove that the experience of going off to college is a great leveler. Whatever one’s own circumstances were upon entering school, Maria’s thoughts now will sound familiar: “The months of waiting for my rejection or acceptance letter were some of the most stress-filled months of my life.” And now that she is in, she says she fears “having to start all over and meet new people.... I was so afraid of turning in the forms of acceptance because it meant that I was really going to leave everything I’ve ever known and start a new life in a completely different environment. But the anticipation of beginning something totally new overpowers all my fears.”


World globe showing North and South America
World globe showing North and South America

We didn’t all go to college 10,000 miles from home, but most of us remember what it was like to leave our family and go somewhere new, full of strange people. This fall, the girl from Guam, the baker, and the pilots will mingle with their classmates, and though they have never met and grew up worlds apart, they will suddenly find themselves equals, united by a common challenge. Vassar welcomes the class of 2009, who will arrive with only their hopes and fears in common, but who will soon find that they are more alike than they could ever imagine.